Sunday, August 12, 2007

Weekley Is Not Like the Others

By DAVE ANDERSON

Published: August 12, 2007

Tulsa, Okla.


You would think Boo Weekley (right) would have known, or should have known. You would think that any golfer in this 89th P.G.A. Championship at Southern Hills would have known that Tiger Woods’s 63 on Friday tied the major-tournament scoring record. But Boo is different. Delightfully different. Asked if he knew what it would have meant had he made his 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th green for a 63 yesterday, he shrugged.

“No, I didn’t know,” he said.

Told he would have tied the record, Weekley said: “Really? That would have been nice.”

You really didn’t know?

“I was just trying to play enough break because I knew I had a lot of break in the first 20 feet of it,” he said in his Florida Panhandle drawl. “Just trying to get it on the top of the ridge there and roll out to the hole. I moved my big head and kind of flubbed it a little with the putter.”

He flubbed it 6 feet short, missed that putt and tapped in for a 65, the day’s low score. Tiger Woods, with a 69 in his bid for a 13th major title, retained the lead and was three strokes ahead of Stephen Ames of Canada going into today’s final round. Weekley, who is seven shots back, played the round with Sergio GarcĂ­a, who was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard; it was Weekley who accidentally wrote a wrong score for the 17th hole.

Boo is different. At 34, he’s a country boy from the Florida Panhandle who would rather fish and hunt. As a graduate of the Nationwide Tour who won the Verizon Heritage in April, he’s playing golf so well that he’s 19th on the PGA Tour money list with more than $2 million in prize money. He’s also 45th in the world rankings and 17th in FedEx Cup points for the four-tournament playoffs that begin Aug. 23 at The Barclays at the Westchester Country Club.

“I don’t know nothing about the FedEx Cup,” he said. “I never was good at math.”

What if Jack Nicklaus phoned him tomorrow and selected him for the United States team in the Presidents Cup matches next month in Montreal?

“That would be great,” he said. “I don’t know where I am on the points. I haven’t got a clue.”

Did he have any ambitions to play in the Ryder Cup matches next year at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky.?

“If they invite me to come to play, I’ll play,” he said. “But no, I don’t know a whole lot about it. I’ve seen some clips of it. I think Justin Leonard made a putt or something. That’s about the only thing I remember of the Ryder Cup stuff.”

Growing up in Milton, Fla., where, he says, “there’s more pickup trucks than cars,” he never watched much golf on TV.

“That’s just something I’ve never done,” he said. “Still to this day I will go home and watch a little bit of golf, like if I’ve seen they caught a little bit of me on TV and maybe my friends Heath Slocum or Bubba Watson or Joe Durant, but I just can’t sit there and watch golf. It’s just not my cup of tea.”

Boo is different. Most successful pros intend to play tournament golf forever, but he can’t wait to be home in Jay, Fla., with his wife, Karyn, and his son, Thomas, who turns 6 this month.

“I want to play 10, 12 years, whatever it takes to get enough money in my bank and I’m done,” he said. “I love the game, but I get tired of the grind. I get tired of being away from my family. I get tired of being away from my friends. I love to play the game, but my heart is really with hunting and fishing.”

How much money in the bank would be enough?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I ain’t got that far yet.”

Boo is different. As a youngster, he played football, baseball and basketball, but was often injured.

“I figured I might want to pick up a sport where I don’t get hurt as much,” he said. “Gene Howard was his name, the golf coach that taught me how to play.”

He then attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga., before working at a chemical plant in Florida for three years.

“Then my buddy Heath Slocum and his daddy talked me into coming back and playing golf,” Weekley said. “So they were laying off at the plant. I took the layoff and started playing golf.”

In his first “major event,” as he called it, at The Moors in Milton, Fla., on the Emerald Coast minitour, he said: “Won $2,200. I was like, man, this is an easy way to make a living right here, so I just kind of stuck with that. Easy way of making a living.”

Easy for him, but maybe that’s because Boo is different. Delightfully different.